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UK targets online scams in latest internet safety campaign

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The UK must crack down on online scams and ‘unlicensed financial promotions’ as it expands plans to restrict what people can post on the internet.

Under an expanded scope of the upcoming online safety bill, social media sites and search engines would be forced to prevent and remove fraudulent advertisements, including romance scams” catfishing” and “false” stock market advice, the government announced on Tuesday.

Ofcom, the media regulator, is set to announce more details on how platforms could comply with the proposed rules. The government has said these could include measures such as verifying the identity of people who place advertisements online or ensuring that only companies authorized by the Financial Conduct Authority, the financial regulator, can pay for “financial promotions”.

“As technology increasingly revolutionizes our lives, the law must keep pace,” said Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries. “We want to protect people from online scams and have heard calls to strengthen our new internet safety laws.”

UK plans to create the world’s toughest internet security rules have prompted pushback from the tech industry, which fears changes to historic legal protections that protect them from liability for the posts of users.

Coadec, a trade body for tech start-ups, warned that additions to the bill would affect nearly 300,000 businesses and that changes to liability rules could cause “the entire tower of the internet economy [to come] collapse”.

Advertising is the main source of income for many Internet companies that provide free services and underpin the ecosystem of social media and online search. Companies worldwide are expected to spend around $700 billion on advertising in 2022, according to advertising research group Warc, with digital marketing accounting for around half of that.

Twitter and Google did not respond to a request for comment on the new proposals.

The government is expected to present the bill to parliament later this month.

As well as amendments to the Online Safety Bill, the government said it would launch a public consultation on current advertising regulations and ask whether regulators were “properly empowered and funded”.

Online advertisements in the UK are currently overseen by the Advertising Standards Authority under a system of self-regulation. But the government said on Tuesday that “rapid technological developments have transformed the scale and complexity of online advertising, leading to increased harm to consumers”.

He said fake celebrity endorsements and “legit-looking” advertisements containing hidden malware had proliferated, and added that options to combat such scams included creating a new statutory regulator with powers to ‘hard’ application, such as the ability to ban advertisers. who repeatedly break the rules.

Christie Dennehy-Neil, head of policy and regulatory affairs at advertising trade body IAB UK, welcomed the public consultation on advertising regulation. The additions to the Online Safety Bill had not involved dialogue with the advertising industry, however, and were “a fairly significant change in scope”.